Students Must Choose Fruits, Veggies for Reduced School-Lunch Price to Apply

Susan Jones | September 11, 2012 | 6:46am EDT
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The Fairfax County Public School system has created an 'All Star Lunch' program that requires students to choose fruits and vegetables. (From the FCPS website)

( - Elementary students in Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools are now "required to select a serving of fruit or vegetables as part of their lunch," the school system's website says.

The new "All Star Lunch" program," based on new federal nutrition standards, aims to teach students about the five "star" components of a healthy lunch: protein, grains, milk, fruits, and vegetables.

"Elementary school students who purchase lunch may select three, four, or all five of the stars and will be required to select a serving of fruit or vegetables as part of their lunch," the Fairfax County Public Schools website says. "At least three stars must be selected for the school lunch price to apply."

Selecting only two stars triggers a-la-carte pricing.

School lunches in Fairfax County cost $2.65 in elementary school and $2.75 in middle and high school.

The Fairfax County School System notes that parents can assist their children in making healthy choices by reviewing the school lunch menu, which is published the night before.

No butter for their bread

Penny McConnell, director of the school system's Food and Nutrition Services, told the local Fairfax County Times that when she first started with the school system 46 years ago, there was only one lunch menu item sold each day.

"We served butter with bread, whole milk," the newspaper quoted her as saying. "Today, we don't offer butter. But back then, you were required to offer butter with bread."

Back then, child obesity was not a national epidemic.

Other changes to Fairfax County school lunch program, based on the new federal nutrition standards, include:

-- A reduction in calories, tailored to the grade level of the students.
-- Reduced protein (meat and meat alternates) portions for students in grades K-5.
-- Limited numbers of servings of whole grain-rich breads and cereals.
-- A choice of only fat-free flavored or unflavored milk or one percent unflavored milk.
-- A focus on reducing saturated fats and sodium and serving foods with zero trans fats.

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program that offers lowcost or free lunches. It served more than 31 million children each school day in 2011. While school lunches must meet federal meal requirements, decisions about what specific foods to serve and how they are prepared are made by local school food authorities.

The National School Lunch Program cost $11.1 billion in FY 2011. By comparison, the lunch program's total cost in 1947 was $70 million; in 1950, $119.7 million; in 1960, $225.8 million; in 1970, $565.5 million; in 1980, $3.2 billion; in 1990, $3.7 billion; and in 2000, 6.1 billion.

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